Girls beat 4A teams to take third in Shiprock, rise to 3-1

IHS Girls' Basketball
IHS Girls' Basketball
IHS Girls' Basketball
Ignacio's Michelle Simmons (3) grins while shooting over Farmington's Meeya Yazzie (2) during the third-place game of the Shiprock (N.M.) Lady Chieftain Invitational.
Ignacio's Sky Cotton (24) hovers to pass between Shiprock's Chiashonya Nelson (42) and Shania Harry (13) during a loss to the Lady Chieftains in tournament play at SHS.
Ignacio's Mariah Vigil (25) tears a rebound away from Aztec's Morgan Smith (33) during the Lady Bobcats' 44-31 win during tournament action in Shiprock, N.M.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

The Lady Bobcats recovered from a Day 2 loss to take third place at the 2012 Jerry Richardson Memorial/Shiprock (N.M.) Lady Chieftain Invitational.
Despite falling to the loaded Class 3A hosts, a pair of wins over 4A schools in the eight-team tournament had Ignacio’s players feeling upbeat as they departed the Chieftain Pit.
“Feels great, to put a trophy in our display case,” said senior forward Mariah Vigil, whose 13 points led the squad in a 40-28 triumph over Farmington (N.M.) — a scorekeeper’s error listed the “official” score as 38-28 — to close out the Dec. 6-8 tourney.
Having faced former Farmington skipper Ben Tensay and Aztec (N.M.) on Day 1, they Lady Cats had to overcome similarly sluggish first quarters to take down both the Lady Tigers and Lady Scorpions.
With zero field goals and only two points after a frame against Aztec, Ignacio’s 44-31 come-from-behind victory was locked up after holding Aztec to just one point in the fourth. Defeating Farmington came from simply waking up after a quarter in which their 2-4-6 points came at the 1:06, 2:13, and 3:17 elapsed-time marks.
“I don’t know what was going on,” senior forward Pam Cotton said of the slow start. “I guess we were kind of tired from last night’s game, but we still got the win.”
Prior to the season, Farmington’s Michael Switch had to think of how to fill up to eight vacancies on his graduation-depleted roster. And the inexperience proved injurious, even after Ignacio’s free-throw shooting sank from 12-of-17 in the first half to 2-of-12 in the second.
Having officially led 10-5 after eight minutes thanks to a Vigil cleanup of a Cloe Seibel miss — set up by precision passing that had Farmington completely confused — the Lady Bobcats’ advantage ballooned to 22-10 through 16.
Farmington (1-3 overall) approached as close as 22-17, but three straight Sky Cotton layups sent the game into the fourth quarter with Ignacio comfortably ahead.
Shaking off seven blown layup/point-blank attempts prior to intermission against Aztec, Ignacio’s lead entering the home stretch with the Lady Tigers — just 33 to 30 — wasn’t so cushy.
But the Lady Bobcats’ 19-8 advantage for the third quarter, in which a Vigil layup gave them their first lead at 27-26, showed that momentum had swung convincingly in favor of the 2A side.
Two Simmons FTs with 0:38 left in the third gave Ignacio a 32-30 lead, and her next two makes increased it to 39-31 with 4:36 left in the game. Fouling out for Aztec (3-4) on the play was junior catalyst Morgan Smith, and big sophomore forward Mikayla Paxton would do likewise with 2:52 left, held to a crucial zero points by the Vigil-Pam Cotton-Valerie Armstrong post patrol.
In fact, of all those encountered by Ignacio designated as either forwards or centers, only Farmington frosh Shayna Carlowe achieved a seven-point total. Eventual Tournament MVP Chiashonya Nelson of Shiprock (4-1) managed just six, as did teammate Courtney Steele in the Lady Chieftains’ win.
Things didn’t turn out quite so well against Shiprock.
“We knew that … their press was going to be a killer. And of course, it proved to be that,” said head coach Justa Whitt of the 57-39 loss. “We tried working through it. We had them on the run there for a minute when we came back from half, and I think ultimately … their subbing ability, being able to switch five out at a time, really makes a difference.”
A long Pam Cotton jumper had put Ignacio up 6-3 early, and a 10-0 personal run by Vigil in the third helped keep a 24-11 halftime deficit within reach, 39-27, entering the fourth.
“I just knew that, more than likely, if you go in you’re going to get fouled,” Vigil said of her tourney-long knack [21-of-34] to get to the charity stripe. “So I just had to drive in.”
A Vigil three-point play with 6:54 left in the clash, following a Simmons layup off a steal, brought Ignacio back to 39-32, and when Whitt called timeout with 3:59 left the Lady Cats were still close at 42-34.
But when Shiprock junior Arantxa Curley (seven points) canned a three with 1:45 left, capping an 11-3 burst, the Pit’s seats began emptying for the night.
Junior star Taylor Henderson was held to eight points, and fellow All-Tournament pick Ashley John four, but classmate Shania Harry was the difference-maker with her 20.
Simmons (point totals of 8-3-10) was later announced as Ignacio’s All-Tourney honoree, after Shiprock athletic director Rick Edwards looked like a genius to locals following a Lady Chieftain varsity-versus-JV showdown for the title.
“Actually I wasn’t expecting them to make it,” he said, amazed by the junior varsity’s 68-45 Day 1 rout of 2A Newcomb (N.M.) and 64-46 defeat of Farmington on Day 2.
Larenson Henderson’s varsity, after a close 12-9 first quarter, ended up defeating Nanel Walter’s JV 61-46, but the underdogs fought the entire way, hardly even making friendly eye contact during pauses.
“They go at it like that the last 40, 45 minutes of practice,” Edwards said.
Carlowe and Paxton also received All-Tourney nods, as did Northwest’s Chelsea Smiley, Celeste Lansing of 1A Montezuma Creek (Utah) Whitehorse, Lacy Howe and Shantel Grey of the SHS JV, and Newcomb’s Autumn Brown, maker of a buzzer-beating trey to beat Aztec 35-34 for fifth place.
Whitehorse and Northwest had previously provided early-arriving fans a thriller in the seventh-place game, with the Lady Raiders improving to 1-5 by edging the Lady Falcons (2-4) 68 to 66.
Grey also garnered the first Deborah “Doc” Waters Outstanding Player Award for her workman-like play.
“Overall we did OK. I think we could have done a lot better,” Whitt said. “We had a lot of missed shots that we should have made, and that’s just something that we have to keep practicing.”
Vigil racked up 43 points for the tournament, 16 coming against Shiprock. Pam Cotton totaled 22 (nine versus Aztec), Sky Cotton 18 (eight versus Farmington), and Armstrong 12 (six versus AHS). Seibel was held to just two, but provided valuable minutes along with reserve Gabriela Garcia (five points) as the Lady Bobcats improved to 3-1 overall entering their Friday, Dec. 14 non-league game with 2A Sargent.
A Thursday, Dec. 20 trip to 3A Pagosa Springs will be Ignacio’s last action before the Christmas holiday break.

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